Tirana: Albania’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Have you ever considered a road trip through Albania? You probably didn’t because this country doesn’t appear often in travel brochures. So, would a trip to Albania and its capital, Tirana, be worth it at all?
We want to answer this question and take a closer look at Albania’s capital city, Tirana. We summarized the most important information about the country for you. After that, you’ll find our top 10 places of interest very useful in order to help you decide whether to travel to Tirana or not. We think the country is really worth seeing!
Tirana in a Nutshell
Albania is a parliamentary republic located on the Balkan Peninsula in Southern Europe. It borders Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Greece, and Kosovo. Moreover, the Balkan country lies on the Adriatic and Ionic Seas. Therefore, it offers beautiful beaches! We also recommend hiking in the many nature parks.
Albania’s capital is the country’s cultural, political, and economic center, as well as located in the center of Albania. Nevertheless, the city of 420,000 inhabitants lies just about 30 km from the beach. Northern Macedonia is also only 50 km away.
Moreover, Tirana is surrounded by smaller mountains, such as the 1613-meter high Dajti. In the northern part, there is a river of the same name. Further to the west, a 40 km long plain stretches out until the sea.
You can get around Tirana by bus. Although finding out the exact bus schedules and stations is a bit tricky since there is no official information. Otherwise, just walk to the best spots or rent a bike. While you’re on the way, be sure to stop at a restaurant and try the capital’s specialty, called fërgëse tirane. It is made of juicy tomatoes, crunchy peppers, and savory brined cheese.
The dish is so popular in Tirana that it has its own festival. It takes place in July and sounds like a great alternative to a restaurant! During the same period, the international folk music festival is also held. So, if you’re up for discovering Albania’s cultural music scene, you’re at the right place.
But there are more interesting events. Did you know that Tirana is famous for its street art? If you didn’t, then go to the Mural Art Festival in September. During that period, new life is given to the plainest buildings.
Conveniently, these events all take place during the best time for traveling there, from April to October. All in all, the city is characterized by its Mediterranean climate. Therefore, summers are hot, but winters aren’t freezing cold. Temperatures usually stay above zero.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Tirana
Now that you know more about Tirana, we want to tell you even more about this fascinating capital. Therefore, we’ve listed and described our top 10 places of interest in Tirana for you. Let’s go!
Dajti National Park
Let’s start with a real gem of a sight: the Dajti National Park. Besides the usual hiking, you’ll also find wolves, foxes, and bears, and be able to try many other activities. Take the country’s longest cable car from Tirana to Fusha and Dajtit. Start by admiring the breathtaking view – after all, it’s not something you get to see every day. If you’re hungry afterward, many restaurants await you there.
Moreover, there is also a minigolf course with 18 holes and a spectacular view of Tirana. Additionally, the course is equipped with floodlights! So, you and your travel buddy can play golf at night.
You’ll also find an adventure park with an amazing high ropes course – the perfect spot for adventurers. If you’re a thrill-seeker, take a leap from the mountain, with a paraglider of course!
Skanderbeg Square is the heart and center of Albania. Culturally, economically and politically, everything here revolves around this main square. It gained its name from the former lord and national hero Gjergj Kastrioti, also called Skanderbeg.
Take a stroll through the pedestrian area and let its greatness sink in. Maybe you are lucky and a fun event like a concert or a Christmas market takes place while you’re there. The square’s highlight is the over 10 meters high bronze statue of Skanderbeg – it can’t be missed.
Et’hem Bey Mosque
The Et’hem Bey Mosque is also at Skanderbeg Square. It was completed in 1821 and is a typical example of a one-domed mosque. There is a big hall at the entrance area, which is used for praying. On the inside, there is plenty more to discover. For instance, the beautiful pillars decorated with delicate floral motifs or the many impressive paintings of flora, waterfalls, and even an image of Istanbul!
You can always visit the Et’hem Bey Mosque when there is no prayer going on. You can also take part in guided tours, where an Islamic scholar accompanies you to the minaret. There, you’ll see its architectural special feature, a pointed pencil-shaped tip. Be mindful of what you’re wearing when visiting the mosque: miniskirts and shorts are an absolute no-go. If you’re not sure how to behave correctly, check out our guide.
National History Museum
Where the town hall was once located, there now is the Muzeu Historik Kombëtar, the National History Museum.
It was opened in 1981 near the main square. Since then, about 500,000 yearly visitors have enjoyed the interesting exhibitions.
Its façade is very artfully decorated. It includes a huge ornament, which depicts people from various historical phases of Albania’s culture. Moreover, there are so many exhibitions, we couldn’t possibly list all of them. A few examples include antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Albanian national movement and anti-fascism.
This Albanian-Orthodox cathedral is a real feast for the eyes thanks to its impressive architecture. It is similar to the Hagia Sophia. The Resurrection Cathedral’s dome is particularly beautiful, measuring more than 25 meters in diameter and nearly as tall! Its bell tower is equally impressive. It’s 46 meters high and composed of four Paschal candles, which symbolize the four biblical Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Resurrection Cathedral’s interior is also beautiful – you’ll find amazing mosaics and detailed frescoes here.
About 200 meters from the main square, you’ll find the small but nice Rinia Park. It is also very popular among locals. There aren’t only green areas to relax on, but also the famous restaurant Tajvani. Go there for some delicious meals and refreshing drinks.
After that, you’ll be ready for some more exploring! In March, the people of Tirana celebrate the annual summer festival, marking the end of winter. During that time, impressive circus shows are held at the park.
Pyramid of Tirana
A taste of Egypt in Albania? No, not really. No Egyptian construction was brought to Europe. This building used to be a museum for dictator Hoxha, who died in 1985. People worshiped him, similar to Tito or Stalin.
In total, three floors included all there was to know about Enver Hoxha. Later, after the communist regime was over, the museum became a memorial of the dictator. It was also called International Culture Center and was used for several events. Moreover, there also were office rooms and many restaurants.
Since 2000, the Pyramid’s front yard has been holding a peace bell. Its peculiarity is that it’s not made of just any material, but of Albanian cartridge cases. These were melted together and are meant to commemorate the Lottery Uprising of 1997. All these attractions make the building one of the city’s most important cultural highlights.
Bunk Art Museum Tirana
Albania holds about 200,000 bunkers – considering that the country’s surface is no bigger than 34,098 km², it’s an impressive number! There is a bunker system directly under the streets of Tirana. It resembles a labyrinth and has more than 100 rooms.
Guess who had it built. Correct, Hoxha! More precisely, he commissioned the underground tunnels in the 1970s. They were supposed to protect the former dictator, his family, and most important friends from nuclear attacks – they weren’t meant for ordinary people. Now there is a museum in the premises, which preserves memorabilia of Hoxha.
Pazar i Ri
An absolute must-see in Tirana – or generally in the Balkan region – is one of the lively bazaars. The capital’s Pazar i Ri is where you’ll want to go for that. Its name translates to “the new bazaar”. But in our opinion, the name “the bazaar that makes your every wish come true” would be more appropriate!
It’s not built like one of the typical bazaars that you might know from Turkish or Italian culture. It also includes a meat hall, fish shops, and fruit and vegetables stalls. You’ll also find many souvenirs for your loved ones. If you’d like to, you can bargain with the vendors – after all, the locals do it too. Try your luck, maybe you’ll get hold of the best deal!
If you still have some time for a short detour, go visit Petrelë Castle. It’s not far from the capital and is located at the top of a small hill. Therefore, it lies at about 330 meters above sea level. Since it was built in the 6th century, it holds countless stories about its past.
After a short climb up, you’ll be rewarded with a great view. Moreover, there is also a beautiful restaurant where you can let yourself be pampered. It is the perfect place to try Albanian cuisine if you didn’t get the chance yet – you won’t be disappointed.
Even if Tirana isn’t the biggest city, it still holds quite many places of interest. In addition to that, the flat countryside with sea and mountains isn’t only an amazing scenery, but also offers countless possibilities. We recommend you include enough time for a backpacking trip to Tirana in your travel plans. That way, you’ll really get the most out of the city and be able to enjoy its sights to the fullest.
What about hiking to the Dajti mountain? Or would you rather visit the interesting museum in the Pyramid, the National History Museum, or the Bunk Art Museum? We really can’t help you with this difficult decision – it’s all up to you! But no matter what you decide:
It’s your turn now! Are you going to pack your backpack and hit the road to Tirana? We hope you will. You certainly won’t regret it. This city in Southern Europe will give you a warm welcome. Don’t keep it waiting!
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